Let’s Shake Things Up: Reading, Reviews and Creative Content



What did summer do to us, my dear book bloggers? I think 97.5% of us have hit a reading or blogging slump that we’re struggling to get out of, and while slumping is nothing new this seems pretty widespread. Earlier, Andi from Estella’s Revenge posted about Blogging Differently and received tons of responses that echoed her feelings about the struggle to keep reviews fresh.

My blog is still under two years old, but I feel like we’ve been talking about this slow decline in book reviews since I started blogging (and probably long before that). The conversations around dwindling pageviews and comments on review posts? I remember noting them in my first few months of blogging. I haven’t abandoned book reviews but, honestly, they’re the posts I feel most uncomfortable with. They’re the posts that feel the least “me” and I know I need to focus on talking about books in more creative ways.

I know some of you are rocking and rolling with great reviews and actually enjoy writing them. By all means, keep on. But for those of us slumping in Slumpland because we’re bored or uncomfortable, maybe we need to shake things up. Like Andi mentioned, coming up with unique content feels nearly impossible with all the book bloggers out there, but aren’t there dozens of bloggers posting reviews for the books we read? I think we just need a shift in perspective.

Rather than this fast-paced cycle of reading and reviewing, maybe we need to throw a bit more thinking in the middle. Michele from Reader’s Respite just wrote two fantastic posts On Essays, Slowing Down and Reading Purposefully that seem to drive this home. Even if deep literary analysis isn’t your thing, I think taking the time to slow down and do more thinking about our reading can be beneficial for all of us, especially in terms of post ideas. It’s hard to be creative if we’re constantly set on finishing one book to review it and move on to the next.

It’s likely going to take a little time, but I’m aiming for more discussion based posts and non-traditional reviews—even on new books!—or reviews that take a deeper look at the text, while still maintaining my voice. Some of my favorite (and most viewed posts) have been those that prompted discussion between readers and I would love to have those be a regular thing. Ashley from Nose Graze just wrote a great post on incorporating discussions that I’ll definitely be referring to.

This wasn’t meant to be a big announcement about changing my own blog, I was just whipped up by posts from the past few days and think we’re long overdue for a shift as book bloggers in general. We can’t all be feeling this way for this long—there are still too many books to be read.

  • I feel like we’re constantly talking about how we need more creative ways to review, but it never really happens. Maybe because, even if you come up with a creative idea, it only feels creative once or twice… it’s hard to turn it into a “this is how I do reviews now” thing.

    • I think that’s the thing – you can’t really do the same thing over and over again but no one wants to put the work into coming up with something new. Still, we’re doing the same thing over and over again with our reviews and it seems like (for most of us), they’re not working. I hate the “Book Talk” thing, because it just ends up turning into a review, but I’m doing as much turning over as I can to come up with ways to do this that aren’t going to be repetitive. We’ll see what happens.

  • I totally agree with the need to slow down the reading pace – sometimes I feel like I’m reading just to have read a book instead of savouring it and analyzing what it is supposed to mean/what the author is trying to say. I think discussion-based reviews might be a step in the right direction! I’m excited to see what you come up with :) Great post!

    • I definitely feel the need to slow down at times. Like Michele mentioned, not every book needs a serious, close read, but I do think we’re missing out on some of the ones that do.

  • Isi

    Well, I take my English blog differently than my Spanish blog: in the English one, I only post once a week and I write reviews only about the books I like most (or less), just because I think they can be interesting, so I think I have no slumps just because it’s not that time-consuming.
    But anyway, I always think that every blogger has to do what he/she is most comfortable with, which can change along the way, so it’s perfectly good if you can change the focus on your writings and reviews, and I’ll be glad to read them!!

  • I don’t feel terribly slumpy right now (but I can be fickle) but I’m always up for adding in a regular, hefty dose of variety! I’m going to save the discussion post you linked to and read it more thoroughly in the morning.

    • I’m not really slumping too bad right now, either, but I was a few weeks ago and started to move my reviews into more first person, which helped. I still don’t feel like they’re quite what I want and would love to keep trying to switch things up.

  • Brava, Shannon! Eloquently and perfectly put, as always. :)

  • Shannon you are already one of the most creative book bloggers out there and I commend you for that. I don’t mind the fact that my blog isn’t really all that creative. I started it for me, as a means of tracking and remembering what I read. It’s not that I don’t think about my audience, because I do, but I also think about my needs. And right now being creative here isn’t one of them. But I am really excited to see what everyone comes up with in an effort to be more creative.

    • By no means is this a universal call! :) Like I said, I know that there are tons of bloggers who feel really comfortable in their space and I’d hate to see anyone switch up something that’s working for them. It just seems like so many people commenting on these posts over the past few days are stuck in a rut, feeling like reviews are the only way to run a book blog. I’m just trying to remind everyone that we can throw in some variety every once in a while if we need to.

      • I definitely think there is room for more variety. That’s why Book Riot does so well. They are everything but book reviews.

  • Like Tanya, I started my blog for myself; as a place where I could talk about the books I read, write down my favourite quotes from them, organize them in some way, and share them with anyone who is interested. Most of the time, right now, I don’t have time for anything else, even though I love the idea of getting more creative. For now, I will be happy to see what you and everyone else can come up with! Have fun!

    • I definitely wouldn’t try to fix something that’s not broken! Like I mentioned to Tanya, it just seems like there are so many bloggers stuck in a review rut (myself included) that it would be great to see us climb out of.

  • I mentioned this before, but one of the most creative posts I’ve seen this year was your recent one on “if you liked X in 2013, you should try Y in 2014”. Also – I cannot believe you’ve been blogging under 2 years…your blog is so well done I thought you’d been at it for closer to 5-8 yrs! I’m with you on getting more creative. I;m not a very creative person by nature and still have 2 young kids at home, so my juices are virtually dried up. But, it’s certainly something I’ll be thinking about as I consider my goals for 2015.

    • Aw, thank you! I do spend time trying to come up with non-review posts, and I like that they give me a bit more freedom to talk about books…I just wish I was able to cross that over to talking about books I’ve just recently read. Hopefully I can come up with some way to do that :)

      • I agree – creativity is a great way to use your archives…esp books you read before starting your blog. I have Book Recommendation Lists(i.e. page turners, book club recs, long books, etc) for that – though they aren’t terribly creative categories! I’m listening to a book right now that is giving me a little juice for a discussion-type post on a new book(s). Topic would be something along the lines of “How Many Strikes Before You’re Out?” (i.e. how many chances do you give a certain author that everyone else loves before you decide he/she is just not for you…). I’m SURE this has been done before, but it’s feeling relevant to me right now! Bottom line – your and Andi’s posts have at least motivated me to think a little more outside the box, so thank you! I’m going to keep trying :)

        • That’s a GREAT idea! As for the thought of it being done before, I’m sure almost everything any of us could come up with has been done before in some way, shape or form. I try not to let that hold me back too much. Obviously, if I KNOW someone has done it before (or did something similar) I’ll mention it, but there are just too many blogs out there for us to worry otherwise.

  • I think the creative stuff comes with time. Just this year I’ve been branching out and writing more original content. I still review plenty of books but that just isn’t my sole focus any more. I think we should all blog to make ourselves happy. For me, that includes writing reviews that focus more on substantive comments while trying to find other creative outlets to talk about books. Sometimes I think that our inherent love of books gets lost in the pressure to read and review as many titles as possible on strict deadlines. Sometimes deadlines squash the joy right out of what we’re doing.

    • You sound like you’re in a place I’d like to be. I’ve been doing the same with branching out recently, but I still feel like my reviews are my weak spot. I think if I could focus on deeper reading (without the deadlines, like you mentioned) I would be able to write stronger reviews, even if it was on fewer books.

  • I mentioned this to Andi yesterday, but because my reading has shifted so much in the past couple of years, I rarely read book reviews anymore and don’t feel terribly motivated to write them myself (unless a book really hits home). Because of this I feel like I’m only half a book blogger, but I try to keep bookish content on the blog through Top Ten Tuesday lists (ok fine they’re a cop-out) and Sunday Salon discussion posts. The Sunday Salon is my favorite to write and it always garners the most discussion in the comments and hits on my blog. When I do have time to sit down and go through my feed reader, it’s the discussion posts or the listy type posts that I hit first. Almost always those book reviews get marked as read. Plus I think that discussion helps us really get to know one another, and that is what makes blogging so much fun.

    • Discussions and lists (anything different really) are always what I open first, too. And it’s definitely great to get that different perspective from your fellow bloggers. It just seems like so many of us feel stuck by this feeling that we have to write reviews or we’ll no longer be book bloggers…but I don’t necessarily think that’s the case.

  • Totally agree with you. I feel like (some) bloggers are feeling the pressure to read more and more books a week, churn out reviews, request more and more to keep up with others… for some that works, but I could never keep up with that pace and it sometimes discourages me. I feel like readers will go for the blogs that can brag of reviews of several high-profile titles a week, when I am lucky to get 2 reviews done a week and I don’t usually have the newest arcs either.

    The bloggers like me, who are feeling restless, need to incorporate variety and creativity into our blogs. Thanks for this discussion. I enjoy discussions with readers more than reviews, frankly.

    • I usually do about two reviews a week, but I just haven’t been enjoying the reviews I’m writing and (based on so much of the discussion lately) it seems like that’s pretty common. I’m not really sure where that’s stemming from, but I hope we can find something that will spark a bit of change – maybe the discussions will do it!

  • I totally agree with this. I’ve gotten so bored of reading and writing reviews. I’d love to come up with more creative ways to talk about books, but it’s so HARD! I loved your “If you loved this 2013 book, you should read this 2014 book” post — such a brilliant way to recommend new books!

    Discussion posts are my favorite to read and write, but they can be hard to come up with. Whereas reading a book gives me a review to write, I have to really feel inspired by a topic or question to write a discussion post about it. I’m going to do some brainstorming, though.

    • It IS hard, especially for books that are just coming out, but I’m really trying to brainstorm some new ideas, too. I really do think it’s possible. I can’t help but think that everyone (publishers, readers, bloggers) could benefit from seeing discussions around books that are a little different from the norm.

  • I’m curious to see how people feel in the upcoming months. Because summer is rough: lots of bloggers get depressed during the summer. But I do think it would be great for me, personally, if I shook up the format a little. I get anxious about falling behind on reviews.

    • I totally agree about the summer blahs…I really hope that’s what’s causing so much of this rather than anything more permanent for most people.

  • Guest

    Glad I’m not the only one!

  • Interesting post. I shared some of these thoughts on Michelle’s posts that you linked to. Truthfully, I started doing reviews as a way to better remember what I’ve read. I hate when I read a book 2 years ago, and someone mentions she is reading it, and all I can remember is that I read it, but I can’t remember the story! Then I started participating in blog tours and writing reviews for them. Now I have gotten myself into a situation that I overcommitted and I have to speed read through the stack to meet my review deadlines. Luckily after next month it will slow down because I made a conscious decision to turn down all books, no matter how interesting they look, until I catch up!

    One of the problems with reviewing, especially what it is for a blog tour, is that I have to balance giving enough information to entice the reader without giving so much that I spoil the story. And of course, that makes it difficult to have a thoughtful analysis of the book! It also makes it less likely that I meet my original goal of remembering what I’ve read!

    What I would like to do is continue doing the quick reviews of 3-4 paragraphs, with no spoilers, but also find a way to have a thoughtful discussion about the book. I think it would be great if we could somehow get together so that if a few bloggers have read the book recently enough to remember it, we could post our short reviews, or not, but have a meeting place where we could come and discuss as we are doing here, with the understanding that the discussion would definitely involve spoilers!

    • Even though I don’t do many blog tours, I totally get that rushed feeling, too, sometimes and I’m aiming to slow myself now as the year ends.

      I did something once with the book Life After Life that I think I’m going to do again, but it means waiting a few months after the book is out to post (so, again, I can’t be tied down by this read, review, read schedule). I felt like I was the last person ever to read that book and didn’t have really anything new to add, so I just posted an open/we can go ahead and spoil each other post with some of my thoughts and a few guiding questions…it’s been one of my most popular posts. You can see it over on the right – it still gets TONS of traffic (which is crazy to me, I didn’t expect that at all) because of book clubs searching for discussions, too.

      • I didn’t read the whole post, because believe it or not, you are NOT the last person on earth to read the book! Just in case I do decide to read it, I decided to pass on the spoilers. But I glanced through, and yes….this is the kind of think I’d like to see more of. I know we could discuss books on Goodreads, but somehow that just seems to complex, test still surface conversation. And of course there is the possibility of forming a blogger group on Book Movement, but then everyone has to sign up. I think more blogger posts like yours would be great! I may try one on the book club selection we just discussed this morning.

  • Jennine G.

    I like the idea of mixing it up with deeper analysis and such. Especially when it’s a book that’s being reviewed everywhere. I’m on my own mini hiatus at the moment, so that’s helping my slump (or maybe creating it). Thanks for the link to reference on this idea.

    • Definitely. Like Michele said, not every book really lends itself to being deeply analyzed, but I think there are some that we could really offer a bit more of our time and effort.

  • Diana@SoNotARunner

    I have been thinking about your post for a few days, and feel like I have to agree with you. I too have been feeling burnout, and have switched to a once a month “newsletter” type format. That makes it easier for me, because then I am only linking externally once, instead of with each post. Also, if I don’t feel like saying much about a book, I don’t have to.
    You said that you are “uncomfortable” with reviewing, and at first that threw me, because to me, that’s what you do. But I really get it. Sometimes it seems like there is nothing that I want to say about a book, because it just didn’t do that much for me. Sometimes my reviews are more positive than I intend, because I try to find something good to say.
    I am not concerned about pageviews or comments because frankly, my readers have never jumped on the comment boat, so I don’t expect them. I had a ton of page views yesterday, even though I haven’t published since 8/31, and I have no idea why. I mean, thank you and all, but there’s nothing new to see.
    This is why I keep blogging, and specifically, reviewing: I’m afraid to stop. I feel like if I stop, I’ll constantly be saying, “now what was that book where that girl did that thing?” and I won’t have anywhere to look back and remember what I read. I’ve stopped accepting free books, because I don’t want the pressure of feeling like I owe a review to someone. I’m also sort of enjoying taking two and a half months (SO FAR!!) to read an 1,100 page book from the 1980s. I probably would have quit this one last year, when I was deep into the read, review, move on cycle.
    Good luck, and don’t give up!

    • I so agree with you on not wanting to forget what I read and I think that’s part of what I want to re-evaluate. I think part of what makes me feel a little uncomfortable about the reviews I’ve been writing is that I haven’t quite found a voice for them, or I’ve been trying to keep them more formal and I’d like to move away from that a bit. I think it’s possible to still read deeply and analyze books with a voice that’s my own. So, hopefully I can find a way to do that and come across a bit more natural…and things won’t feel like such a chore. SO many kudos to you on sticking with that book – I’m really curious about it now!

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  • I just read this post and Andi’s and it’s obvious to say that I am late to this discussion. And the reason I am late is because not only have I been missing from my own blog but other blogs as well. What is going on?! Seems like a common feeling among bloggers. I just have to say that I LOVE your blog, reviews and creativity so much! It’s one of the few I really enjoy. But I get what you are saying. Every time I have minutes to spare to write a post, I change my mind and walk away. Maybe it’s the books, a slump, the “been there done that” feeling, being uninspired… Who knows? But when I feel like walking away from it all, I immediately miss the community, and so I stay. Someone mentioned Book Riot and how they are doing it right and I agree, but they have numerous heads to put together and different personalities keeping things current and fresh. We are only one person and I think we are doing well, slump and all! :) This is why I wanted to have a bloggers network at BEA. THIS is exactly what I wanted to discuss and talk about. Maybe we will have one yet!

  • Silver’s Reviews

    Awesome point and answers.

    Luckily I am still not bored.

    My thoughts would be to have more personal posts?

    I myself will probably not change what I am doing, but it will be fun and refreshing to see what others do.

    Thanks for bringing up this subject.


  • I’d like to do more unique things on my blog and currently focus on reviews in part because I don’t feel I have the time to brainstorm more creative things or plan events. I’d like to, but for now I’m mostly doing unique things by joining in with other people’s events (hosting for Bloggiesta, for example). I often get a decent response on my review posts, perhaps because I interact with a number of bloggers with similar reading tastes and it’s always easier to comment on stuff you’ve read. I think my non-review posts probably do better, but I’m not unhappy with the response to reviews. I think you make a fantastic point about slowing down our reading though. In both my personal and professional life, I wish I retained more of what I read. It’s not a strength of mine! Blogging and writing reviews helps me remember the big picture of books better, but the push to read enough to have as many fresh reviews as I want takes a toll on the level of time and attention I give each book, I think. It might be nice to try to relax a little and spend more time with each book I read. Great post!

    • It can be a really hard cycle, since quick reading is so necessary to keep reviews running. I’m really trying to slow down a bit and it does feel like a relief.

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  • debnance

    Agree. Agree. Agree.

    Let’s get to shakin’.

  • Kelly

    Love it. I agree, as I am usually in a slump, not just in what I post, but also in interacting with bloggers. I’m always so jealous of the bloggers who have made developed great friendships with each other as a result of blogging, since I would love to be able to do the same. But I get bored of reading the reviews of the same books all the time, just as much as I get bored with writing reviews for the same books that everyone is else is writing reviews for. (I remember seeing a discussion post about that, too, but I can’t remember where.)

    After four years of blogging, and feeling like it’s all been a struggle and not worth it more than it has been worth it, I’m starting to realize that it’s key for me to write reviews for books I feel passionate about–whether it’s because I loved the book or didn’t like it–and to write other posts about topics I feel passionate about. That doesn’t mean I’m not in a slump, but it’s helping me to do what you said and read more mindfully, and it’s also helping me to consider what books I will review and what the sources of those books will be (library v. purchase v. accepting review requests, etc.).

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  • Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I have seen this general sentiment on other blogs. It seems to be a shift in blogging that is taking hold.

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